Taj Mahal Mosque

Agra, India | C.1643

Photo Credit: Yusuf Chiniwala

As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal is renowned for its stunning beauty, pristine symmetrical design, and overall grandeur. But at first look, what many see is the Taj Mahal’s mausoleum, the tomb of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 42-acre complex that includes gardens, a reflecting pool, guesthouse, and the Kau Ban Mosque.

At the far end of the complex, two red sandstone structures face each other, flanking either side of the mausoleum. A guesthouse sits Parallel to the eastern wall, while the Mosque faces westwards toward Mecca. Completed in 1643, the structures were intended to be identical, but have slight variations in their design.

Containing three entrances, the Mosque welcomes visitors with its stately exterior. The main entrance includes an iwan, or arched doorway, adorned in black marble inscriptions from the Quran. Decorative flowers carved into the marble, a technique known as pietra dura, also envelop the entranceway. Two smaller entrances are on either side of the center, and the mosque is topped by three domes.

As an active mosque, the Kan Ban’s interior is equipped for the practice of Islam. Inside one will see a Mihrab, a wall niche that indicates the direction of Mecca and the way Muslims should face during prayer. There is a Minbar platform where the Imam delivers his speeches, and the floor is inlaid with a prayer rug with a total of 596 places for worship.

Within the Mosque, in a small stone room, the body of Mumtaz Mahal once lay before being buried in the Taj Mahal’s main tomb. Mumtaz passed away after giving birth to her 14th child. Her name, given to her by her husband the Shah, translates to “The jewel of the palace.”

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